Federal Report: Russian Accounts Tried To Influence Line 5 Debate

Mar 8, 2018

Russian social media trolls meddled in the debate over the Line 5 pipeline beneath the Straits of Mackinac, according to a report by a US House Committee.

The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology worked with Facebook and Twitter to identify nine-thousand posts related to US energy issues that originated from Russian accounts.

The report cited the shutdown of the Line 5 pipeline as one of the issues Russian accounts tried to influence.

Brandon VerVelde is the press secretary for the House Committee. He said Russian accounts took both sides of the issue, but largely posted against oil and gas pipelines.

“What we found is Russian entities through the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company, were focused on anti-energy and anti-pipeline efforts and they really tried to inflame tensions between Americans.”

VerVelde said Russia has a clear motive.

“As Russian energy exports to Europe and Western Europe decrease their political and economic influence in that region decreases. As American energy has increased that presents a clear threat to Russia.”

VerVelde said roughly four percent of the content posted by the Russian accounts was related to energy infrastructure. By comparison, the 2016 election made up about eight percent of posts.

Environmental groups were quick to point out the report did not release any actual posts regarding the Line 5 pipeline.

Sean McBrearty is with Oil and Water Don’t Mix, which supports shutdown of the Line 5 Pipeline. He called the report a distraction.

“In 2017 alone over 30-thousand individual Michigan residents made public comments demanding this pipeline be decommissioned immediately. These people aren’t Russian trolls. This report from the House GOP is nothing more than an attempt to distract from the fact that Russian interference on behalf of Donald Trump led to his election.”

McBrearty said even if there were some posts made by Russians, it doesn’t undermine decommission efforts.

“Any sort of Russian tweeting had no impact on our campaign to decommission Line 5.”

VerVelde declined to share any posts directly related to the Line 5 pipeline. 

Click on this sentence for to view the full House Commitee report